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Fulbright: Diplomacy in Action – Connecting Nations and People

Fulbrighters attend a seminar with Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, Ambassador Tacan Ildem (center front), at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium in February 2020.
Fulbrighters attend a seminar with Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, Ambassador Tacan Ildem (center front), at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium in February 2020.

Since the program’s founding, Fulbrighters have served as unofficial citizen ambassadors. Fulbright alumni continue to work to forge lasting connections, counter misunderstandings, inform the public, and help people and nations work together toward common goals.

In recognition of 75 years of outstanding service, we recognize several Fulbrighters working in the fields of public diplomacy and service, and explore how Fulbright has influenced and contributed to their careers.

Black and white photo. Dr. Robert Brooks; U.S. Ambassador to India Chester Bowles; Dr. Olive Reddick; Dr. Zakir Husain, Vice-President of India; Mr. Prem Kirpal, Secretary, Ministry of Education at Fulbright House, U.S. Education Foundation, India in 1965.
From left: Dr. Robert Brooks; U.S. Ambassador to India Chester Bowles; Dr. Olive Reddick; Dr. Zakir Husain, Vice-President of India; Mr. Prem Kirpal, Secretary, Ministry of Education at Fulbright House, U.S. Education Foundation, India in 1965.

Sylvia Poggioli, 1968 Fulbright U.S. Student to Italy

Fulbright Host Institution: University of Rome
Current Position: Senior European correspondent for NPR’s International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans

Sylvia Poggioli, with a bun and hoop earrings, stands smiling against a wall for a headshot.

“Looking back, I now understand that the political and social turmoil I witnessed during my Fulbright year laid the foundation for the career I would ultimately follow–journalism: first, working at the English-language news service at Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA), the major italian news agency, and later as a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio. I’m still not sure I completely understand every aspect and complexity of this society and exactly how it has evolved and radically changed in the last 50 years, but certainly without my Fulbright year and the opportunity it gave me to absorb and interact with Italians in such a turbulent time, I am sure I would not have had developed the skills needed to competently observe and analyze Italian society.”

Hammad Hammad, 2008 Fulbright U.S. Student to the Netherlands

Fulbright Host Institution: Universiteit Utrecht
Current Position: Alternate Permanent Representative, Political-Economic Officer, U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome

Hammad Hammad business headshot

“The Fulbright Program was instrumental in kickstarting my career as a public servant. Living and working in the Netherlands on Fulbright inspired me to pursue a career as a Foreign Service Officer. As a gay Arab-American diplomat representing the United States abroad, l have been able to connect with a wide range of audiences and I have tried to use my position to shape U.S. government policies that take into account the most vulnerable — whether migrants or LGBT youth in Mexico or political prisoners in Venezuela — to ensure our policy formation does not occur in a vacuum.”

Victor D. Cha, PhD; 1991 Fulbright U.S. Student to South Korea, 1998 Fulbright U.S. Scholar to South Korea

Fulbright Host Institution: Kyungnam University
Current Position: Professor of Government, Vice Dean, and D.S. Song-KF Chair in the Department of Government and School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University

Dr. Victor D. Cha in mid-sentence while speaking at an event.

Dr. Victor D. Cha is an academic, author, and former national foreign policy advisor for the White House, focused on the Asia-Pacific region. In his distinguished career, he has worked on the National Security Council, testified before Congress on Asian security issues, and served as a Senior Adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Dr. Cha was a John M. Olin National Security Fellow at Harvard University and is a current Fellow in Human Freedom at the George W. Bush Institute. He is also a Contributor for NBC News and MSNBC and has been a guest analyst for various national and international media including PBS, NPR, Bloomberg, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Dr. Cha has written numerous articles, six books, and other works on Asian security, including North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

Laura Hochla, 2003 Fulbright U.S. Student to Spain

Fulbright Host Institution: University of Granada 
Current Position: U.S. Foreign Service Officer, currently on detail as Director for Europe at the National Security Council, The White House

Foreign Service Officer Laura Hochla stands in front of a large bush with her arms crossed, smiling.

“Fulbright was absolutely my gateway to diplomacy, and not simply because U.S. Embassy staff in Madrid encouraged me to pursue the Foreign Service as a career. My time as a Fulbright grantee gave me my first experience learning a culture other than my own, listening to points of view often vastly different from my own, and finding common ground on points of disagreement.”   

Ambassador Chan Heng Chee, PhD 1967 Fulbright Foreign Student from Singapore 

Fulbright Host Institution: Cornell University 
Current Position: Ambassador-at-Large, Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ambassador Chan Heng Chee headshot

Chan Heng Chee is a Singaporean academic and diplomat who served as Singapore’s Ambassador to the United States from 1996 to 2012. Prior to this, she served as Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1989 to 1991. Outside of government, Ambassador Chee has served in various capacities in the Singapore International Foundation, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, the Institute of Policy Studies, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. She also served as Chair of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Cydni Gordon, 2017 Fulbright U.S Student to Argentina

Fulbright Host Institution: Assistance and Research in Affective Disorders Institute (ÁREA)
Current Position: Program Officer, Western Hemisphere, Fulbright Program, Office of Academic Exchanges, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Cydni Gordon standing on a beach on an overcast day, smiling at the camera.

“I know that the academic/professional component of Fulbright is highly emphasized, but for me, the cultural exchange proved to be just as consequential —the personal friendships and professional connections have endured time and distance and I’m forever grateful for my time there and especially for the chance to learn about and from not only Argentines, but others I got to know. While I was able to narrow down my research interests, I also made incredible lifelong friends.”

Photo caption: Cydni Gordon in Reñaca, Chile during a Fulbright Western Hemisphere Enrichment Seminar, 2018.

Sam Worthington, 1984 Fulbright U.S. Student to Switzerland 

Fulbright Host Institution: Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes Internationales, The University of Geneva 
Current Position: President and CEO of InterAction, the nation’s largest alliance of over 220 relief and development nongovernmental organizations working overseas, investing $15.4 billion a year to development projects

Sam Worthington headshot

“At Université de Genève, I had the opportunity to research a small program in the United Nations’ International Labor Organization called ‘Participatory Organizations of the Rural Poor.’ The work focused on programs to advance the power people must have over their own lives, no matter how marginalized their circumstances. My insights learned as a Fulbrighter continue to influence how I see international development and the role of external groups, including the international NGOs that make up InterAction’s membership. Today, decades later, I find myself back in Geneva at the United Nations meeting with leaders in more formal and high-level events, yet the lessons remain the same: our work must be rooted in local voices and the ability of a people to shape their lives and future.”

Dr. Robert Sterken, Fulbright Specialist and 2015 Fulbright U.S. Scholar to Burma, discusses democracy at the U.S. Embassy Thailand with Ambassador Glyn T. Davies in 2015. They stand together with a group of older students.
Dr. Robert Sterken (back row, center right), Fulbright Specialist and 2015 Fulbright U.S. Scholar to Burma, discusses democracy at the U.S. Embassy Thailand with Ambassador Glyn T. Davies (back row, center left) in 2015.
Richard Schaefer, 2016 Fulbright U.S. Scholar; U.S. Ambassador S. Fitzgerald Haney; and Elizabeth Guinessey, 2016 Fulbright U.S. Student at the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica.
From left: Richard Schaefer, 2016 Fulbright U.S. Scholar; U.S. Ambassador S. Fitzgerald Haney; and Elizabeth Guinessey, 2016 Fulbright U.S. Student at the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica. “My Fulbright to Costa Rica gave me the chance to meet the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica following a fascinating presentation on immigration by Dr. Richard Schaefer, fellow Fulbrighter.” – Elizabeth Guinessey

Building a Better Future Through Diplomacy

An enduring testament to the Fulbright Program’s mission, Fulbrighters and alumni continue to build a better future through mutual understanding as unofficial cultural ambassadors, career diplomats, international journalists, political scientists, and citizen changemakers.

Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows at 2018 Global Leadership Forum Diplomatic Reception, standing on a small raised platform with a podium in front of them.
Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows at 2018 Global Leadership Forum Diplomatic Reception.